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What do the scholars say about Ibn `Arabi? Is he a disbeliever or one of the greatest saints (a

Answered as per Shafi'i Fiqh by Qibla.com

Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed

What do the scholars say about Ibn `Arabi? Is he a disbeliever or one of the greatest saints (awliya)?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Scholars have differed about Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn `Arabi. Some declared him a disbeliever because of what they found in his books, in terms of expressions used that contradict the shari`ah, according to the way they understood it. And others said he was among the greatest saints and righteous and they considered those expressions to be of the terminology of the Sufis without its being contradictory to the shari`ah even though the outward meaning may have seemed as such, but the intended meaning certainly was not. Many of our realized imams from Ahl al-Sunna, our `Ashari masters such as Shaykh al-Islam Zakariya al-Ansari, who was an imam of the many sciences of theology, tafsir, hadith, fiqh and Arabic have tread the same path, as well as their great students such as the Imam of Egypt, al-Shihab Ahmad al-Ramli and his son, Al-Shams Muhammad al-Shams al-Khatib al-Shirbini and the pillars of the late scholars such as Shaykh al-Islam al-Shihab Ibn Hajar al-Haitami. The latter has elaborated on the issue of al-Shaykh al-Akbar, and has defended him at length in his great work, Al-Fatawa al-Hadithiyah, so whoever wishes may refer to it. (f. There is a short biography about Ibn `Arabi in the Reliance of the Traveler and Shaykh Nuh has written an article about him, that can be found at the website, www.masud.co.uk).

Shaykh al-Islam Zakariya objected, in his book al-Ruddah from “Sharh al-Rawd”, when Imam ibn al-Muqri called Ibn `Arabi and his followers disbelievers, saying, “And it (i.e. Ibn al-Muqri calling Ibn `Arabi a disbeliever) is only according to his understanding, as some of them did from the outward meaning of his sayings. And the truth is that they are [f. the foremost of the] believers and their words are aligned with their terminology like the rest of the Sufis. And these meanings are a reality according to what they intend even if it requires that others need to interpret, for if they only understood the outward, it would entail disbelief. Because words that have particular terminological usages are literal when they are used in their very terminology and are considered to be figurative when used out of their terminology.

Thus, whoever understands it according to its terminology, understands it soundly. And many great scholars, gnostics of Allah, considered Ibn `Arabi to be of foremost believers, among them is Shaykh Taj al-Din ibn Ata’iLlah and Shaykh AbduLlah al-Yafi`i, and this high rank of theirs is not maligned by the outward purport of their words to those who are not Sufis because of what we have just said. Because it may be that when a gnostic of Allah is drowned in the ocean of oneness and beholding of Allah-such that his self vanishes in Allah and his attributes vanish in Allah’s attributes and he is oblivious to anything other than Him-certain expressions may come out in this state, that may seem to indicate hulul and ittihad (indwelling and union with Allah [s. see Reliance of the Traveler w7.1] ) because of the deficiency of language to express the state that he has risen to, rather it has nothing to do with those two things, as the erudite scholar al-Sa`d al-Taftazani has said.”

This is some of what the scholars have said about Shaykh Muhyi al-Din ibn Arabi. And it is my belief, and it is the belief of my shaykhs, realized men in the spiritual path following in the footsteps of realized scholars of the Sacred Law that I mentioned and others, also, that: that Shaykh Muhyi al-Din is among the Imams of our noble Sufis and that his words that appear in discussions of Sufism are completely in line with their terminology without them being meant as hulul or ittihad (indwelling and union with Allah) of the creation with the Creator nor the opposite, and without any negation of responsibility for the morally responsible.

A person who doesn’t tread the spiritual path with a shaykh who is knowledgeable, who acts upon his knowledge and is realized in Allah should be warned of going near the books of the Shaykh, such as the Futuhat, because those who are not familiar with their terminology, in most cases, will be misled by the outward purport of his words. So he would either believe in something false that wasn’t even intended, or he would deny [f. and condemn] their true spiritual experiences that are not contradictory to the shari`ah. And it is also unfit for those who are not known of being of sound Sufism to speak the words of the Sufis unless by way of ascribing them [s. those words] to the Sufis, and without believing just the outward meaning of their words, as has been stated by Ibn Hajar in the Tuhfa, in the chapter of apostasy.

And the questioner should know that no one has the knowledge of what is in people’s hearts nor the ends of their works except Allah. And having a better opinion is (husn al-dhann) that our Imams said what they said about Shaykh Ibn `Arabi, in praise or blame, only to serve the deen in what seemed correct to them. Also, the one thing that our imams do agree upon is that it is haram to believe any false belief that may seem to be indicated by the words of Shaykh Muhyi al-Deen and others.

And those whose faith is established, we don’t declare them disbelievers, except with certainty. And the basis that is used regarding apostasy is that whoever says something whose outward is disbelief, but may carry some meaning that could be interpreted otherwise, he is not declared a disbeliever until it is confirmed what he intended by it, [f. and that he actually intended disbelief]. And we have seen that great imams of verification have explicitly stated Ibn `Arabi’s high rank after having thorough knowledge of what he said. And they considered those words that were open to interpretation to be in accordance with the terminology of the Sufis, such that those words were not intended as disbelief.

And Allah knows best the truth and unto Him is the return and the final abode.

– Amjad Rasheed

(Translated by Sr. Shazia Ahmad, with notes from Faraz Rabbani’s recorded translation)

السؤال : ما قولُ العلماء في ابن عربي ؟ هل هو كافر أم من كبار الأولياء ؟ الجواب : اختلف العلماءُ في الشيخ محيي الدين ابن عربي فكفره بعضهم لما وجدوه في كتبه من عبارات خارجة عن الشرع بحسب ما فهموها هم ، وجعله آخرون من أكابر الأولياء والأخيار وجعلوا تلك العبارات جاريةً على اصطلاح الصوفية من غير أن يكون فيها خروجٌ عن الشرع وإن كان ظاهرُها هذا لكنه ليس مراداً ألبتة ، وجرى على هذا الأخير أئمةٌ محققون من أهل السنة ساداتنا الأشاعرة كشيخِ الإسلام زكريا الأنصاري جامع أشتات العلوم كلاماً وتفسيراً وحديثاً وفقهاً وعربية ، وأكابرِ تلامذته كإمام مصر الشهاب أحمد الرملي وولده الشمس محمد والشمس الخطيب الشربيني وعمدة المتأخرين شيخ الإسلام الشهاب ابن حجر الهيتمي ، وقد وسع هذا الأخيرُ الكلامَ على الشيخ الأكبر والانتصارَ له في فتاويه المشهورة بالحديثية فليراجعها من شاء ، وقد اعترض شيخُ الإسلام زكريا في كتاب الردة من “شرح الروض” على الإمام ابن المقري في تكفيره الشيخ ابن عربي وطائفته فقال :” وهو [ أي : تكفير ابن المقري لابن عربي ] بحسب ما فهمه كبعضهم من ظاهر كلامهم ، والحق أنهم مسلمون أخيار وكلامهم جارٍ على اصطلاحهم كسائر الصوفية وهو حقيقةٌ عندهم في مرادهم وإن افتقر عند غيرهم ممن لو اعتقد ظاهره كَفَر إلى تأويل ؛ إذ اللفظُ المصطلحُ عليه حقيقةٌ في معناه الاصطلاحي مجازٌ في غيره ، فالمعتقدُ منهم لمعناه معتقدٌ لمعنى صحيح ، وقد نصَّ على ولاية ابن عربي جماعةٌ علماءُ عارفون بالله منهم الشيخُ تاج الدين ابن عطاء الله والشيخُ عبد الله اليافعي ، ولا يقدح فيه وفي طائفته ظاهرُ كلامهم المذكور عند غير الصوفية لما قلناه ، ولأنه قد يصدر عن العارف بالله إذا استغرق في بحر التوحيد والعرفان – بحيث تضمحل ذاته في ذاته وصفاته في صفاته ويغيب عن كل ما سواه – عباراتٌ تُشعر بالحلول والاتحاد – لقصور العبارة عن بيان حاله الذي ترقى إليه – وليست في شيء منهما كما قاله العلامة السعد التفتازاني غيره “. اهـ وما بين معقوفتين من كلامي . هذا طرفٌ من كلام العلماء في الشيخ محيي الدين ابن عربي ، واعتقادي فيه هو اعتقادُ مشايخي المحققين في الطريق تبعاً لأئمة محققين في علوم الشرع ممن ذكرت وغيرهم وهو : أن الشيخ محيي الدين من أئمة ساداتنا الصوفية ، وأن كلامه في مباحث التصوف جارٍ على اصطلاحهم من غير أن يراد به حلولٌ ولا اتحادٌ للخلق بالخالق أو العكس ، ومن غير نفي للتكليف عمن توجه عليه ، وأنه يُحذرُ على مَن لم يسلك على شيخٍ عالمٍ عاملٍ عارفٍ أن يطالع كتبَ الشيخ كالفتوحات ؛ لأنَّ غير العالم بمصطلحهم الأغلبُ عليه الاغترارُ بظواهر الكلام فإما أن يعتقد معنى باطلاً غير مراد أو ينكر أذواقهم الحقة غير المخالفة للشرع ، ويُمنعُ أيضاً على من لم يشتهر بالتصوف الصادق التكلمُ بكلماتهم المشكلة إلا مع نسبتها إليهم غير معتقد ظواهرها كما قاله العلامة ابن حجر في “التحفة” في كتاب الردة . وليعلم السائل أن علم بواطن الناس وخواتيم أعمالهم لا يكون إلا لله ، وحسنُ الظن أن أئمتنا ما قالوا ما قالوا في الشيخ ابن عربي مدحاً أو ذماً إلا نصرة للدين بما ظهر لكلٍّ منهم ، والأمر الذي لا يختلف فيه أئمتنا هو أنه يحرم اعتقادُ معتقدٍ باطلٍ مما يوهمه كلام الشيخ محيي الدين وغيره ، وأن من ثبت أيمانه فلا نخرجه عنه إلى الكفر إلا بيقين ، والأصل في باب الردة أن من صدر منه قولٌ ظاهره الكفر وكان يحتمل التأويل أن صاحبه لا يكفر به ما لم نتحقق إرادته الكفر ، وقد سبق أنَّ أئمة محققين صرحوا بولاية ابن عربي مع اطلاعهم على كلامه ، وجعلوا كلامه مما يحتمل التأويل بحسب اصطلاح الصوفية بحيث لا يكون مرادُهم من ذلك الكلام الكفر ، والله أعلم بالصواب وإليه المرجع والمآب.

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